Football Picked to Win NEC Title in Preseason Coaches Poll
The Central Connecticut football team has won four Northeast Conference titles since 2004. Central won the outright title in 2009, and shared titles in 2004, 2005 and 2010. According to the NEC Coaches on Wednesday, the Blue Devils were picked to win it again in 2011.
"It's always an honor to be picked first by the coaches in the preseason poll," sixth-year head coach Jeff McInerney said on Wednesday. "But that doesn't mean we can rest on that. We still need to work hard on the practice field and perform each and every Saturday on the field if we want to win an NEC title and earn a berth to the NCAA playoffs."
Central was first in the poll with five first place votes. In addition, three Blue Devils earned Preseason All-Conference honors. Senior offensive lineman Brendan Brackett, senior defensive lineman Charles Williams and sophomore defensive back Chris Linares all earned preseason recognition, voted on by the league's head coaches.
The Blue Devils were 8-3 overall and 7-1 in NEC play last season. It marked their second straight season with a 7-1 mark in league action. They finished in a tie for the league title with Robert Morris, but lost a tie-breaker with the Colonials for the league's automatic bid to the playoffs.
Central was 5-0 at home in 2010, and enters the 2011 season with a 14-game home winning streak, the second-longest active home winning streak in the country. In McInerney's five seasons the Blue Devils are 38-18, and have posted a winning record in each of his five seasons. Central has posted three straight perfect seasons at home, and hasn't lost on Arute Field since the final game of the 2007 season. They are 22-2 at home in the five years under McInerney.
"We take great pride in what we have built with this program, especially at home," McInerney said. "We're the only team in the league to post an overall and conference record above .500 in each of the last five seasons, and we are going to work hard to maintain that consistency."
In the last two seasons, when Central won a pair of conference titles, the Blue Devils are 17-6 overall and 14-2 in the league. The 14 league wins are the second-highest two season total in NEC history (RMU had 15 from 1999-2000). They have won 37 conference games since the start of the 2004 season (26 of them coming under McInerney). The 37 wins during that time are the most in the league, one ahead of Albany's 36 and five in front of Monmouth's 32. Prior to 2004, the Blue Devils had won only 19 conference games in eight seasons.
"We've built a strong program here with hard work and with great student-athletes," McInerney said. "What we need to do is continue to do things that have made us a better football program. We're not sneaking up on anybody anymore, we've proven we can consistently compete in this league, and that is the sign of a good program."
Brackett, one of five captains announced last spring, was the lone offensive preseason selection for the Blue Devils. He was a Second Team All-Conference pick a season ago, when the Blue Devils led the league in rushing (212.5 ypg) and total offense (399.5). Central has led the NEC in rushing offense in each of the last five seasons, and in total offense in four of the last five.
Williams and Linares were both named Preseason All-Conference on the defensive side of the ball. Williams was a Second Team All-Conference pick last season after posting 47 tackles and a team-high six sacks.
Linares had a solid freshman campaign in 2010. He led the team with two interceptions and had 27 tackles from his cornerback spot.
Central opens preseason camp next Monday, and will open the season at home against Southern Connecticut on Sept. 3 at 12 noon.
Fans can once again follow all of the action of preseason camp with Open Mac, a daily audio segment with McInerney that will appear on weekdays online at CCSUBlueDevils.com.
The full roster for 2011 will be released next week, as well as updated bios and headshots of all players and members of the coaching staff.
Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches Poll (first place votes)
1. CCSU (5)
2. Duquesne (2)
3. Robert Morris (1)
5. Bryant (1)
8. Sacred Heart
9. St. Francis (PA)